The Headless Chicken Festival of Fruita, Colorado

by CountrySunshine

In 1945, in a small town in Colorado, a farmer cut off the head of Mike, his rooster. Mike went on to become famous, and a celebration in his honor is held each May

Each May, the life and spirit of Mike, The Headless Chicken, is celebrated in in Fruita, Colorado. A small town of just over 12,000 people, Fruita is home to the descendants of the original pioneers and farmers who settled there in the late 1880s.

Mike was a Wyandotte rooster, born in 1945, who had the unfortunate mishap of having to live without a head. Mike's Festival is to honor not his disability, but the spirit that kept him alive.

Where is Fruita, Colorado?

Fruita is a small town, located just west of Grand Junction, Colorado, on the western side of the state, and just a few miles from the border of Utah.

Mike's Story

Back in the 1940s, it was common for people to butcher their own roosters and chickens for dinner. Especially if someone special was coming to eat - such as your Mother-in-law. One of the ways a chicken was selected was because it was troublesome. Roosters can get an attitude. They will sneak up behind you, and stick a spur in you. Not fun - it hurts, and usually draws blood!

Mike was one such cocky rooster. He lived on the farm of Lloyd and Clara Olsen, in Fruita, Colorado. History does not tell us the reason Mike was chosen to be the main course. Perhaps it was because he was the right age, or just plump enough! Regardless, on September 10, 1945, it was Mike The Rooster's turn to become dinner!

Farmer Lloyd, sent out by his wife to find a good rooster, came across Mike out in the chicken yard. At five and a half months old, he was the perfect age. His meat would be tender and juicy. He had a long neck, just like Lloyd's Mother-in-law liked. Mike became the "chosen".


Lloyd positioned his axe, eyeballed the neck for proper placement, then swung. Off came his head! Mike "ran around the yard like a chicken with his head cut off". But unlike other roosters who came before, the axe didn't kill him!

Lloyd decided that if Mike had that much will to live, then he was destined for bigger things than dinner! If Lloyd could figure out a way to feed & water him, Mike would live to crow another day.

Using an eyedropper, Lloyd proceeded to feed Mike grain and water. He did so well, that a week later, Lloyd packed Mike up, and took him to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Scientists at the University examined Mike, and determined that the axe had missed the rooster's jugular vein, and a blood clot kept him from bleeding to death. He still had his brain stem, and bit of an ear, and that was what was keeping him alive.

Miracle Mike

The Headless Wonder

Over the next 18 months, Mike went on to gain 5 1/2 pounds. The Olsens got Mike a manager and hit the road, where Mike appeared in sideshows and carnivals, for 25 cents a view. This was a lot of money in the 1940s!

Mike became quite a celebrity, and appeared in both Time and Life magazines. He was even insured for $10,000! He eventually made it into the Guiness Book of World Records, and Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum.

Mike The Headless Rooster
Mike The Headless Rooster

Unfortunately, on the way home from a road trip, when staying at a motel, Mike began choking. Lloyd was unable to locate the eyedropper in time, so Miracle Mike went on to the big chicken yard in the sky.

More About Mike

Mike's "Headless Chicken" Festival - Third Weekend of May

To celebrate Mike's life, the towns people of Fruita, Colorado gather each May for Mike's Festival. Held the 3rd weekend of the month, the festival consists of competitions, food and live entertainment.

The competitions include:

  • 5K Run / Walk
  • Mike's Disc Golf Tournament
  • Mike's Dirt Jump Competition
  • Headless Mike's Bicycle Poker Ride
  • Peep Eating and Wing Eating Contests

Awards and Prizes

An award is given for the best "Good Egg" of Fruita. The "Good Egg" is a person, nominated by members of the community, for their good service to the community, a positive attitude, and a person who always does the right thing, even when no one is watching.

Winners receive a free Chick-Fil-A meal, once a week, for a year.

Awards are also given to the best quilt entries and best of the Car Show entries, in addition to winners of the competitions

Mike's Headless Chicken Festival Highlights

What's a festival without food & entertainment? At Mike's Festival, live entertainment is offered several times each day by local talent. There are also craft shows, car shows, backyard games, people wearing chicken hats, and a variety of food vendors. Not just chicken is served at Mike's Headless Festival!

Mike The Headless Chicken T-Shirt

Buy one from Zazzle today!
Mike the Headless Chicken t-shirt
Mike the Headless Chicken t-shirt


Copyright L.C. Clifton / Country Sunshine.  All Rights Reserved
Originally published May 1, 2012 on Squidoo


Updated: 11/03/2015, CountrySunshine
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What do you think of Mike? Would you like to help celebrate his life?

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blackspanielgallery on 11/03/2015

What a strange occurrence.

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